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Soundtrax: Episode 2020-1
February, 2020

Feature Interviews:

  • Catching Up With ANDREW LOCKINGTON: From JOURNEY 2 through DAYBREAK

• SNAPSHOTS: Soundtrack Reviews:

ANNE WITH AN “E” (Bhatia & Posner/Varese Sarabande), BURN (Torjussen/Wenallt Records), THE  COURIER (Barker & Despic/Music.Film), DARKNESS VISIBLE (Desai/MovieScore Media), UN DETECTIVE (Bongusto/Quartet Records), DISASTER MOVIE SOUNDTRACK COLLECTION (Williams/La-La Land), GRETEL & HANSEL (Rob/Waxwork), GYLT (game score/Velasco/Materia Collective), Hitchcock: British International Pictures Collection (Various/Kino Classics Blu-ray), THE ITALIAN JOB (Jones/Quartet), NAKED [etc.] (Dickson/Caldera), QUINN MARTIN COLLECTION: THE INVADERS (Frontiere et al/La La Land), TOGO (Isham/Walt Disney), UNDERWATER (Beltrami & Roberts/Disney), THE WINDERMERE CHILDREN Baranowski/WOMEN OF THE NIGHT (De Maeyer & Ragot/Riva Media)

Film Music Book Review: AFTER THE SILENTS: Hollywood Film Music in the Early Sound Era, 1926-1934

• Soundtrack, Vinyl, Game Score News

What follows merges two interviews I had with composer Andrew Lockington, the first took place on Apr 24, 2018, and the second on Sept 12, 2019, both of which offer a continuation of our first interview, published in my July, 2008 column.

Q: How did you get involved with DAYBREAK and what were the musical needs for this series?

Andrew Lockington: Oh what a fun show to be a part of! It’s great because it was a very ambitious project, and certainly ambitious on the music side. I was fortunate to be working with Brad Peyton, who I’ve worked with for many projects. He was one of the executive producers and directed the first two episodes as well, as his business partner Jeff Fierson and a showrunner I hadn’t worked with before, Aron Eli Coleite. So I had the safety net of being with people who trusted me and we could take some big swings and try some pretty out-there ideas. The whole series on its own is pretty out there. From a music standpoint it was really interesting because it’s probably one of the first times I’ve gone into scoring character themes as opposed to story themes, because in this case the characters and their themes are put through so many different filters. The narrator and the person who is breaking the fourth wall are changing throughout the series. So in the first episode Angelica’s theme is through the perspective of Josh and his world, but then on the third episode it’s through Angelica’s world and the fourth is through the Principal’s world. We had these incredibly different perspectives on the same melodic material depending on whoever was leading the show and narrating the episode. So it became a bit of a checkerboard world of having the theme go on one half of the squares and then the perspective of each theme on the other half and then tying themes together. We also had themes for their various relationships. The score wasn’t tied to the show; it either belonged or not belonged in every single genre category at Amoeba Music!


“Josh’s Daybreak Theme can be fun and superhero-esque, and also represent him feeling defeated and insecure—all in the way that it’s employed and the way that it’s arranged and orchestrated.”


Q: I found its storytelling to be fascinating, not only with the way characters would narrate portions of their story by talking directly to the audience, but also in the overall post-apocalyptic high school world that it was developing there. And carry the show’s sense of fun and its high-energy story and environment.

Andrew Lockington: The biggest challenge for me when I read the script was, “Wow! I need to be really fun—but I need to have the music be taken seriously and be earnest and honest, emotionally, at times as well. When you have an audience that is prepared to laugh and feel like everything is sarcastic, you have to be really careful that the music does its part in making it clear when moments are heartfelt and honest and raw, and not feel like you’re being strung along to have a joke played on you for believing what they were saying was true. That made it really challenging and so often when I’m writing scores and working with themes; I’m coming up with a theme and figuring out how it will evolve this way and that way.

Of course, with what I’ve described and the different perspectives in the characters, a theme had to be successful in a thousand different ways! So there were a lot of themes that basically made it three quarters of the way along the football field before they got tackled and were completely flayed out and disabled on the 75th yard line and I had to go back and start over. But once I figured out what those themes were and I could tell that they could do the length and survive the full ten episodes, it was really enjoyable to take them and put them in different contexts and have a theme like Josh’s Daybreak Theme, which can be fun and superhero-esque and also represent him feeling defeated and insecure—all in the way that it’s employed and arranged and orchestrated. So it was very unique in terms of a musical project for me. I was talking to Brad about this last night, and we were saying that it obviously pays very literal homage to FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF and MAD MAX and yet those are almost like set pieces or props in the show, because the show really is its own unique piece, it just has those things as very obvious props sitting on the landscape. So it was a lot of fun. It was also very challenging, and the score going from large orchestral action moments to very simple piano moments to guitars to whistling… it just ran the gamut. The days where I work on a Brad Peyton project and I basically say “this is my arsenal of tools and I have to use these”—this was nothing like that. I was challenged to use anything in the world possible that could be a musical instrument!

Q: How would you describe your instrumental palette for some of the main themes from the show?

Andrew Lockington: It’s definitely an orchestral element. There’s a lot more guitar—I’ve never really done a lot of guitar work and it’s funny because I spent a lot of time writing themes on guitar that ended up not being played on guitar ultimately. The theme that came first and probably goes through the entire series most consistently is the Josh/Daybreak Theme, and it doubles as his theme, personally, and a theme for “Hey This Is Going to Be a Fun Ride”—a fun graphic novel-type show. It’s basically this hook and chord progression that you hear in its normal way the first few episodes, and then I get to start playing with it and putting it in relative minor, changing the reference pedals underneath, and it really changes the context of the theme and what it’s doing—but I think by that point the audience is so familiar with the hook that they enjoy hearing it in a slightly warped way.

Q: The main relationship, even though it’s set apart from most of the show, is obviously between Josh and ‘Sam’ Dean. How was their romantic theme twisted and turned throughout the episodes?

Andrew Lockington: The neat thing about the show, if we’re talking about cultural references and pop references, I think that relationship resembles the story of John Hughes films that we grew up on, BREAKFAST CLUB and that kind of thing. The music, while it isn’t paying homage to that music, is definitely giving this euphoric sense of discovering what you feel is a soul mate in your teen years, somebody you really have a connection with and you see in a light that you’ve never really experienced seeing another human being before. And that’s a good example of what I was saying earlier: that’s one of the more earnest and honest elements in the story, and also in the score. Those scenes had to almost feel like time is standing still for a moment and everyone else is in slow motion, and Miss Piggy and Kermit see only each other, they’re not aware of anything surrounding them or anything else going on, it’s just this very focused moment. It is some of my favorite music to write, to be honest. It’s stuff that can be very emotionally honest but not dictate or narrate the emotion. It’s really trying to accentuate what you’re already feeling.

The DAYBREAK soundtrack is available digitally from Lakeshore Records. Watch a sampler of Andrew Lockington’s themes from the DAYBREAK score:

Q: I thought the way the relationship went throughout the series, especially near the end where Josh gets “woke,” so-to-speak, to how his expectations toward Sam were so off-base and he had to learn the error of his ways, and then at the end where you’ve got a whole different change in Sam’s attitude. How did you treat some of those aspects of their rapport?

Andrew Lockington: The way they shot and wrote the series sums up the concept in so many ways. You have these different characters but they’re all flavored by somebody’s perspective, depending on who that character is. Therefore, musically, I was mirroring that with the theme. Josh is being, through his own eyes, this superhero-esque, fun comic book-y person, but through the eyes of someone like Angelica was a little pathetic, and she looks down on him. So the whole idea that’s revealed at the end of the show, where we realize Sam is his version of Sam, and that’s who we’ve been following—we’ve been following her through his eyes, but her truth exists in a different way through her own eyes.

Q: A character that I’ve particularly enjoyed watching his Miss Crumble, who went through an interesting metamorphosis from beginning to end. How did you treat her character?

Andrew Lockington: She was the only character that didn’t have a theme, but the music I used for her was just off the wall. I created as many strange sounds as I could and put them together as if they are somehow in synchronicity and seem to be in a pattern working together.  It was really enjoyable and, I think disturbing to people who could hear through my studio door what I was recording and writing for that character! I came up with some really fun rhythms, elements, motifs that worked with her.

Q: Any final thoughts regarding DAYBREAK?

Andrew Lockington: One of the more fun things that I got to do, there’s a theme that the Principal has, who is played by Matthew Broderick. I wrote it really early on, so it could be used in the show and he could be whistling it on screen. It’s very Meta to break that link and have the character singing his own theme. We also do that in the float theme at the end of the show and the characters are playing music in episode 10—the closing credit theme that we’ve been hearing throughout the whole series is now being played by these kids on the high school band instruments! There were a lot of little Easter eggs like that. I ended up having to write Turbo’s Theme and Principal Burr’s Theme and some of the other different themes early on while they were in the midst of shooting, and having done that it really shaped the score for me. It also shaped how the characters thought of things and thought of their characters and acted in the scene because they were able to hear the music, which is a very unusual order of events.

Q: Moving back a ways, your score to JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH was such a wonderful, melodic-based orchestral score. So coming into the sequel, JOURNEY 2, what was your brief from the director as far as what he wanted, how much from the first score may be used, and how all that came about?

Andrew Lockington: He loved the main theme on the first film—it really resonated with him, so he asked “can we take this and put it on steroids, for film number two.” All the other themes are new in the second film. Brad is very much into themes, which I love because that’s my favorite part of what I do. It’s the scaffolding of all the buildings we build with the scores; they’re built on themes. So to have a director who works that way and has an appreciation of film music that is centered on themes was great.

Q: What kind of orchestra did you have for JOURNEY? Was it comparable with what you had the first time, or what was the palette?

Andrew Lockington: It was a little bit bigger than the first film, and it was a different recording studio. The first film was recorded at Air Lindhurst Studios in London, and the second film was recorded at Abbey Road. And in fact the CITY OF EMBER score was the first thing I’d recorded at Abbey Road and I love both of those studios, but they both have strengths. My experience with CITY OF EMBER gave me a lot of insight in how I wanted to record JOURNEY 2.

Listen to Lockington’s Main Title theme from JOURNEY 2, via WaterTower Music:

Q: With that facet in mind, in addition to serving the film, how does knowing ahead of time where you’re going to record impact what you’re writing for the film?

Andrew Lockington: It really impacts it. When you’re working in London or Los Angeles, there are certain styles that musicians and orchestras play in that are maybe more conducive to how I’ll write. The best places in the world for recording film music are places where they’re really familiar with the process and having a piece of music put in front of them and a very short time to master it before the final take happens. So to get to work in those places where they’re used to that challenge on a daily basis allows you to write some pretty technically-challenging things and have them pull it off. Different artistic groups in different parts of the world have their different strengths so you always want to write to their strengths.

Q: Back to the thematic architecture of JOURNEY 2, would you describe your use of the new themes and how they interacted with the theme from the first film to follow the journey of the new story?

Andrew Lockington: The only theme that really carried on was our JOURNEY theme, which was the heroic/swashbuckling melody from the first film. The other themes really had to try and capture the new relationships and the new characters in the film—then with the island being a major character in the story, my goal was to really make them live within the same universe, and the idea of having the melodies and chord progressions that really give you a sense of wonder and adventure and mystique and magnificence of what the story was trying to capture, of coming upon a place of immense beauty that hasn’t been seen by people before, and I was trying to portray that sense of discovery in the music. It’s definitely like JOURNEY 1 but more than anything I’ve done before it really hearkens back to the kinds of scores and the kinds of films I grew up on, which are these Spielberg/Williams collaborations where you had these really melodic, hummable themes that have multiple variations and are heard in so many different ways so that every moment of music is a variation on a theme or a retrograde or inverted theme or a very bold, simple presentation of that theme.

Q: What was your style of musically treating the dinosaurs and the other creatures that they encounter as threats on the island?

Andrew Lockington: That’s a good question… on JOURNEY 2 I did some travel, I went to Papua New Guinea and recorded some wind instruments as well as a lot of the log drumming. I was fascinated by that, and I really wanted to capture a sound of Melanesia prior to any colonial or missionary influence, so I recorded some really interesting drums. There’s something really primal about them—drums are used in a lot of ways that are symbolic of war in some of these tribes, so to play them in some of these danger moments, like when they wake the giant lizard in the film and your hear this log drumming, it’s adding to the adrenalin but melodically it’s taking away any sense that everything’s going to be okay. Since that score, that research has infiltrated my writing even just with a Western orchestra or typical Western instruments. That’s something that has had a cumulative affect over the years from all the different studying and research and exposure to music of different cultures and instruments from different parts of the world.

Q: Shortly prior to JOURNEY 2 you scored the SyFy channel’s fantasy-esque series SANCTUARY. What can you tell me about scoring this shows and what your instrumental palette was?

Andrew Lockington: I was brought in to score SANCTUARY after its first season, so I scored seasons two, three, and four. I wasn’t really familiar with the music from the first season, so I approached it with a blank canvas which the producers and showrunners gave me full ability to do. What was really fun about that was that it had some orchestral elements but it’s also a mélange of different world elements in that score. It really parallels the story, which is a sanctuary for people with abnormal powers, not dissimilar to an X-Men School, this is a sanctuary where creatures, not just people with super-powers but people with abnormalities or mixed-species from different elements of Middle Earth that we in our world have never encountered, are able to go and find refuge. So in the storyline there were a lot of things that were unfamiliar and a lot of strange things in which the music could really take that theme and run with it—combining medieval hurdy-gurdy with elements from Javanese gamelan and that sort of thing. There was a lot of taking multiple elements that were unique and exploratory to the Western ear and combining them together. I got a lot of freedom from the producers and directors on that show.

Q: Did you need to use the main title theme from Season One or did you create your own theme for the seasons you scored?

Andrew Lockington: The show was taking a bit of a twist in Season Two, so we created a new theme. It was an enjoyable experience. I played a lot with languages, actually. I’m always really fascinated with voice; I think when vocals have English words on them when they’re used in a score it is very distracting from the story, so in this case it was playing with different languages as phonetic elements to be sung, so it’s not just ah’s and oo’s. That’s something, again, I took away from SANCTUARY and have used in a lot of the scores I’ve done since.

Q: You also scored sci-fi-esque series PRIMEVAL NEW WORLD, also shown on SyFy, which was a prehistoric fantasy based on the British series PRIMEVAL that had ended by then. What was your musical take on this show?

Andrew Lockington: It was short-lived, but it was fun. Some of the team came from SANCTUARY so we decided to bring a lot of what we had learned and some of things we had explored musically in SANCTUARY and play with it on PRIMEVAL. It never really entered into that superhero world…  One of the great things about PRIMEVAL, and I guess it’s not dissimilar to RAMPAGE, as you’re putting your audience, a regular human being, into an extraordinary situation that maybe ten or twenty percent removed from reality, but it’s close enough to our everyday life that you can envision yourself being the protagonist in the story. Those are some of the hardest things to score, because you don’t have a dominant side to a scene, or that dominant character, you have to use finesse and have a much lighter tough in the way you wrote.

Q: I imagine some of your JOURNEY 2 drumming and whatnot would have fit into the dinosaur scenes in that show…

Andrew Lockington: Yeah, it did. I also used some choral material. I’m in love with the idea of trying the exact opposite in themes, musically, so there was a scene in the climax of the final episode of PRIMEVAL where you’ve got this huge dinosaur that’s running in slow motion and I wrote this almost operatic cue for the singer Emilie Claire Barlow—I’d used her as well on JOURNEY 2, she’s the female voice in that film—and it was so contrary to the destruction in the scene, but yet such an interesting take on what was happening because it was telling you the consequence of the destruction and the time manipulation that was happening, as opposed to reinforcing the carnage.

Q: Neither PRIMEVAL nor SANCTUARY have had soundtrack albums release, is that correct?

Andrew Lockington: That is correct. I still get emails almost daily for people asking for the SANCTUARY soundtrack to be released. We tried really, really hard but at the end of the day the masters are owned by a different entity than the producers on the film and we were never able to push it through. We fought hard to get it to happen but unfortunately it never did.

It’s funny, with DAYBREAK I literally had almost a hundred if not more texts or emails from people saying “Hey, I listened to the soundtrack and I haven’t heard this cue; is there a way to get it?” And, honestly, it’s almost always a different cue! It’s always something different they’re talking about. And there’s no way—there’s five and a half hours of music in DAYBREAK, so it’s impossible to release it all. I find that editing down and consolidating cues into something someone would want to hear is a really difficult process. The music is written in such a way that if you develop an evolution of your themes across the arc of a film, but then you take out any of the steps, for me anyway, it feels like there’s a missing link in the evolution. How did the theme get from here to there? Inevitably that’s what you need to do when you’re condensing a film score into a soundtrack experience.

Q: On these two series were you allowed orchestra on those or were you restricted to digital or samples?

Andrew Lockington: There was no orchestra on either of those. There was one episode of SANCTUARY where we did get to hire an orchestra, which was amazing—it was a World War II episode where they go back in time to the Second World War so we had a horn section, snare section, and proper string section, but for the most part I didn’t have that. And because I’m not a huge fan of using orchestral samples in an end product, it definitely influenced how I wrote both of those, trying to really put the weight and center it either on electronic elements or live solo ethnic elements that I could feature.

Q: Then you scored the second feature film PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS in that series.  What opportunities and challenges did this film pose for you?

Andrew Lockington: I was a big fan of the first score—I thought Christophe Beck did a great job on that first score, and it was really well done. So I was surprised and fortunate to carry the torch on the second one. Working with Thor Freudenthal, who’s really a gifted, talented director, was great. He’s into themes and very strong melodic earworms that he can create and use to coax the audience in one direction or another. It was my first experience working with Fox on its own, the previous film I’d done with them had been a collaboration between Fox and Walden when we did CITY OF EMBERS, so it was really nice to work with that team. This was one of the first big things I’d recorded in L.A., at the Newman Stage on the Fox lot, so that was a treat. You go into these studios and you can just clap your hands and hear the reverb and the echo of so much of your childhood scores – literally you can hear “oh yeah that’s this score, this score, this score!” It’s amazing how these rooms have these sonic signatures in the reverb that really fingerprint all of these creations—another example of entering into a studio where the creative residue of all the creative composers that came before you really coat the walls! 

Listen to Andrew Lockington’s Main Title music from PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS, courtesy Sony Music:

Q: Did Chris Beck’s score for the first PERCY JACKSON film influence you at all, or were you starting fresh with a wholly new sound on this one?

Andrew Lockington: We started fresh but the first score really laid out the parameters of the franchise, how heroic it could be, and what the complexities of Percy were as a character—how human was he, how super-human he was, how much was he influenced by his god DNA. I had heard the first score a few times and I commented on it when I met with the filmmakers, that I thought [director] Chris Columbus really did a good job in the first movie, and the whole theme of setting up the rules. So I was never looking to challenge the rule, but we were looking at some new creative thematic information from the get-go, and see if we could establish melodic motifs that we could use and feature throughout the second film.

Q: In 2015’s SAN ANDREAS, one of several films with Dwayne Johnson you’ve scored, you’ve got this wonderfully massive disaster move with all sorts of things happening… would you describe your approach and how that score developed?

Andrew Lockington: The main difference between SAN ANDREAS and RAMPAGE is that SAN ANDREAS had these earthquake moments where you’d have this big action moment and the antagonist in the film, being the earthquake itself, would hit. Those usually were short lived so there was a lot of time for musical contemplation, relationship, and story line in between. That meant the music could present a lot of these humanitarian themes to the forefront. RAMPAGE, on the other hand, is a lot of action, it’s a lot of chaos and no one’s winning, so one of the challenges of the score was to provide structure to the action sequences. It’s not like a LORD OF THE RINGS or a STAR WARS kind of thing where they win one and then the villain wins one, and then they win one, and then the villain wins one—each side having a turn being in control. The moments in RAMPAGE are very unpredictable and no one’s really in control. So it was a bit of a choreography to find the moments in RAMPAGE where you could be boldly thematic and really announce one side as being dominant in the scene.

Q: In those moments how did you focus on the humanity of Dwayne Johnson’s character in the midst of all this chaos that’s around him?

Andrew Lockington: I think that’s the amazing thing about Dwayne Johnson as an actor, despite his unique physical appearance and stature, his characters are extremely relatable. You can sympathize with them; they have vulnerabilities; they have strengths but they’re not superhuman strengths. He is that strong uncle or big brother you have growing up who would look after you and would use simply the actual adrenalin that nature provides humanity to lift a car and to save your life. So from a musical standpoint, your heroic theme can’t overwhelm the story because it would simply make you feel like this isn’t relatable, this isn’t real life.

A lot of that is owed to Dwayne himself. I think he’s the best actor in the world at moving between all the different facets of his films. He can crack a one-liner joke, and then two minutes later he can have a very moving, emotional moment, and you follow him. It’s those transitions that probably scare composers the most; because musically to move from a cue where you can allow for humor into something where you need your audience to be serious can be quite a journey. They talk about four-quadrant films in terms of the demographics of who wants to see them, but I think of a lot of these four-quadrant films as four different musical styles you have to be able to not just pull off but also pull off the transitions between them. Having worked with Dwayne three times I know well that he’s extremely capable of moving between an action moment and a funny moment and a sad moment and a happy moment— he’s very good at transitioning between all of these quadrants. You definitely have to keep up, but he is captivating the audience so the music has the freedom to go there and not worry about your audience feeling misled.

Q: How did you musically treat the monsters that he’s fighting?

Andrew Lockington: That’s a good question. You know, in the film, we have our villains, we have our canister—the actual pathogen which infects the monsters, we have the monsters themselves, we have the paramilitary group who are hired by the villains to try and capture the monsters… they’re all working on the same side. So in terms of musical themes, they were all encapsulated by the villain theme and in different presentations of it, different instrumentation, but I used that same theme for all of them to show them as a group being the antagonists. For the creatures, there are moments where they have a mission or a goal they’re trying to achieve or a destination they’re trying to reach, and in those moments it was obvious to score them with this bold theme, but in so many places in the film they’re very unpredictable, and any time I would try and play this theme that’s more predictable and more recognizable on top off a situation where you want your audience to be startled and unsuspecting of what’s going to happen next, it’s very counterintuitive.  The biggest challenge was finding the moments where we really needed to anchor the score musically and also to keep those action moments exciting and interesting musically without ever feeling that one or the other side is in control when story-wise they weren’t.

Q: Was there a need to sympathize with the white ape, George, who has moments of empathy as well as being a threat due to the pathogen he’s been exposed to?

Andrew Lockington: A huge need! Musically, that was the key to the entire film, which is amazing because when you break down the music, of 93 minutes of score, probably just seven of them are that emotional theme, but they’re the most important part of the film. It’s so important you care about this creature so that it’s not a simple just-kill-the-ape-and-it’s-over with. This isn’t just an ape; it has a brother relationship with Dwayne Johnson’s character, and he’s conflicted in that he recognizes that the only way to stop it might be to kill George—he recognizes that the primate threat is George. And so musically, George had to be represented in a few ways: he had to have moments where he was grouped in with the villains, and then moments where the music could give you some insight into his connection with Dwayne’s character, and that despite everything else going on—the genetic manipulation, the gene editing, all of the controlling of what used to be George—the music had to help us realize that within that package there’s still a little piece of his personality and who he was, and the music has to make sure it keeps that little hope alive.

Listen to Andrew Lockington’s cue “Requiem,” from RAMPAGE, courtesy of WaterTower Music:

Q: A TV series you scored, AFTERMATH, a one season show, seems almost like it’s extracted from SAN ANDREAS where it’s dealing with the aftermath of all the disasters that were involved in that film.

Andrew Lockington: That was really fun. There was a sound programmer that I’ve worked with for several years, Michael White, and he and I embarked on that together. That score is unique in that it isn’t thematic. We took all of the musical structure, Western instrumentation merged with world instrumentation and we threw it all out the window and said, “How can we create the most intimidating sounds that will not hold your hand, will not tell you everything’s going to be okay, but use it in a musical sense to create structures, not just sound design that has a tempo and has a time signature, but is very uncomfortable. How can we pick and choose the musical rules of writing a piece of music and take away melody or certain other important musical elements? The biggest challenge of the music was to never say everything’s going to be okay, never give any sense of hope, just a sense of being lost. One of the really great things about that series was the showrunners, Bill Laurin and Glenn Davis. I worked with them many years ago on one of the first things I ever did, a show called MISSING for ABC and Lifetime, with Vivica Fox. Even though it had been a number of years since we had worked together, we were really able to pick up where we left off. They were extremely supportive of our trying to go outside the box. I remember Glenn Davis saying ‘if I’m not threatened of being fired as the showrunner of this show, then you haven’t done a good enough job! If you can get it so they threaten to fire me because the music is so terrifying, then we’ve done the right thing!” So having that kind of freedom and trust to really go outside the box and try to do something that doesn’t really have any references in the genre was really fun.

Q: You scored a film that seems to have its roots in science fiction although it’s presented more as a drama, which was THE SPACE BETWEEN US.

Andrew Lockington: Yes. That was Peter Chelsom, director. I have been a fan of Peter’s for many years. I always took notice and love his style of directing and storytelling, so that was a real honor. I worked again with my friend Michael White, and we used a whole bunch of found objects to create some instruments I could use in the film. I’d start with that and then bring orchestra in as an element at the end. The DNA of a lot of that score is found in these interesting junkyard metals and ice cream bowls from Paris Auction House, and all these old, almost broken, found “instruments” that could make sound and kind of combine together for a bit of a junkyard band.

Q: In this film you’re dealing with a human who’s almost an alien, born on Mars and now he’s coming to the Earth for the first time. How did you show his impressions of what earth is all about compared to where he grew up, and reference that kind of sci-fi-esque quality while focusing on the drama and the emotion that he’s undergoing?

Andrew Lockington: You hit the nail on the head! There were two elements to the story that really sent me in a direction on the score. Number one, the story is that a baby is born in a space station on Mars, and they feel like, in this sort of present-day-plus-five-years, if the truth is revealed that they accidentally sent up an astronaut who was pregnant, it’ll be a big scandal that will drop the stock market and they’ll be forced to bring them home—and the scientists have figured out that the baby would not survive coming back to Earth because it’s been in space, in zero gravity, during its entire gestation in the womb. Its bone density is different, its organs have formed differently, so the end result is they decide to keep it a secret and they have this boy growing up to 16 years of age on a space station on Mars. No one knows he exists, and his entire exposure and understanding of life on Earth is through the lens of the fifteen astronauts and scientists he’s met in his life, so he’s sitting there for sixteen years trying to deduce what it’s like to be human. The two things that really influenced the score were, number one, his character, Gardner, loves to watch old movies on digital film files that the astronauts brought with them on little USB keys. He falls in love with these old movies of the various chivalrous, female-wooing, and all of the social proper social etiquette that goes with that. Of course these are movies from fifty years ago, so that’s his interpretation of current life on earth but of course it’s out of date. So he comes to Earth and everything is new to him—he sees a horse and he’s never seen a horse in any of these movies, and he has no idea what it is. Peter Chelsom, the director, said to me “we need to approach the music this way, the two big influences are, number one: this very romantic, beautiful style of music that really was narrating these beautiful romantic films from the ‘40s and ‘50s that he’s watching; and number two, what if we look at all the instruments in our orchestra and made it so that anything can be an instrument. Don’t just say, “Hey, it’s violins and piano and the obvious, but look at the musical world the way Gardner, the character, would look at the Earth and the physical world, where everything’s beautiful. At one point in the movie the character sees a caterpillar and says “this is beautiful.” Well not everyone thinks a caterpillar is beautiful, so I sort of thought, musically, these junkyard instruments, what if I just throw out all of my preconceptions of what an instrument is and look at the world and all of these objects as anything can be an instrument? So there are not a lot of sci-fi elements to the orchestra, but it was more those things that drew me into what the score should be.

Listen to Andrew Lockington’s cue “Ocean” from THE SPACE BETWEEN US, courtesy of Sony Music:

Q: On the other side of the coin you scored INCARNATE in 2016, one of the few actual horror films you’ve scored.

Andrew Lockington: As much as it was sort of a horror movie, I always thought of it as more of a road-chase movie—but it does fit within the genre of werewolf films. INCARNATE was with Brad, and that was an interesting challenge to go from making a couple of big $100 million+ movies with Brad to a very, micro budget film. As much as it was a genre film, Brad was really focused on the emotional and humanitarian side of this horror movie. The limitations I had, orchestrally and budget wise, put me in a path that, yet again, has sort of shaped how I looked at things going forward. I remember thinking, “We don’t have a big orchestra budget for this—in fact we had no orchestra budget—so what could I do?  I remembered, on some other films where I’d had a large orchestra, writing cues that were primarily cellos and bass, and I remember thinking how even in a large orchestra you’ve got twelve cellos and eight basses—financially that’s twenty musicians. So on a big studio film you might have an hour where you’re paying the other 78 members of the orchestra not to do anything—so what if I wrote a score that was all cellos and basses? Sonically that’s a sound we’re used to on larger budget things, but financially it’s much more doable. I just needed to write in that range and timbre of the ensemble, but that’s not a bad place to write for this kind of film.

Q: How did you create that kind of tension for the audience through those instruments?

Andrew Lockington: There’s a lot more electronics in that score than anything I’ve done before, and it’s probably the score where music and sound design, more than anything else, have a real blurry line. I remember writing a cue for Brad for this really tense scene, and Brad said “Wow, this scene works but I can’t hear the music—I can’t tell what the score is.” So I muted it and we watched it again, and I realized I was trying to create tone more than melodically branding a scene or a storyline; I was trying to use tone to create thematic moments in the music, and with the orchestral element being this low string element added a little bit of a sense of humanity but it also felt a little steampunk-orchestral. Violins tend to give a warmth to something but as soon as you get cellos and basses playing in the treble class, upper register, there’s something suspicious about it. They’re being emotional but there’s a bit of a question of intent, and Brad and I tried to use that to our advantage.

Q: What kind of musical opportunities did you have scoring the TV series FRONTIER? You’re just about to begin scoring season 3.

Andrew Lockington: I love writing for FRONTIER. Jason Momoa plays an incredible main character. He’s a very gifted actor—I think the world has just scratched the surface on seeing what he’s capable of. Similarly to Dwayne Johnson, as an audience you really want to follow him. There are a lot of complex layers to his character. It’s a historical drama for Netflix, which definitely has a big influence on how you score it—rather than being episodic where people are going to see one episode a week, it’s streaming all at once, so people are going to binge watch it—that makes the viewing experience more like watching a four-and-a-half or five-hour movie for each season. So it’s almost like a big film where you have themes that will carry through consistently, like the architecture of a film score.

I actually hired a music consultant who had written quite a few papers on the music of the times, and it’s amazing how the music was, at that time, colliding culturally. You have a colonial fiddler playing with a bodhrán player from Ireland, playing with a hurdy-gurdy from Poland, and you had these pubs and public places where people were just bringing any instrument they had and concocting a musical performance , each drawing upon their own musical history. That was certainly the inspiration on the score, and played a big part on the score in combining these different elements. What’s fascinating is to take the bodhrán, which is a hand drum, and you compare it to a frame drum that the Ojibwa or the Cree would have had at the time that the Europeans came to North America, and they’re really the same instrument. They’re both animal skin drums around the same size, so it’s fascinating how similar some of these things were and how they would have had a lot in common. There’s also some influence of classical music as the upper class lords and wealthy business men would have come into the area and lived on Versailles type properties where they would have a harpsichord or a string group playing. There was this kind of opulence represented by the classical music at the time, and it was a real mish-mash of music, and what I ended up doing, and this is really attributed to Brad Peyton, because he had directed the first two episodes, is taking all of these different elements and instead of just playing them in their usual form, treating them in electronics and through modular synthesizers and using them as source material for these things, but creating a score that was actually very much electronically manipulated, and what we ended up with was something that has its orchestral elements—you hear these elements in their pure form but a lot of it is this electronically manipulated instruments that are authentic to the time and the place.

Q: To what extent did the show’s budget restrict or prompt your musical palette?

Andrew Lockington: For the producers of the show, music was really important from the get go, and they were sure to protect the budget so we actually had the budget for live music and decent sized groups to perform the score. Having producers and showrunners who understand how important music is to a show is really helpful, and it allows you to dream big and come through on it.

Listen to Andrew Lockington’s Main Theme from FRONTIER, courtesy The Orchard Enterprises:

Q: TIME FREAK was a romantic comedy with some science fiction elements in that it’s about a teenager whose girlfriend breaks up with him and then he used a time machine to go back and try to fix what went wrong.

Andrew Lockington: It’s a fun take on time travel and the Butterfly Effect and all the implications of that, it also has elements of GROUNDHOG DAY, where they’re able to keep trying to live a scene over and over until they get it right. It stars Asa Butterfield, who was in THE SPACE BETWEEN US, and he is very gifted actor. I created an instrument for this score that I haven’t even named yet—it’s basically this large piano string strung out over a big resonant wood box, so I used that a fair bit along with a four-octave mbira, an African instrument similar to a thumb piano but it’s very, very large. We scored it in a bit more of a British rock kind of way, where you’ve got the piano and the drums and the guitars, very sort of modern Indie Brit rock, sort of early Coldplay or Snow Patrol or The National, that kind of sound vibe.

Q: How did you treat the romantic elements while also reflecting the science fiction-esque element of the time travel?

Andrew Lockington: The film doesn’t focus so much on the technology, and where it does those elements are handled really well by the sound design in the film. So that didn’t end up becoming one of the things that the score had to do much heavy lifting on—the score could concentrate on the arc of the relationship. What’s unique about the film is you start the film partway through their relationship and then you move back and get to relive when they met and what was happening when they fell in love and really connected. So it’s an interesting exercise because it’s not uncommon to have to hear a great love theme that is describing a new relationship between two people—but, it is more complicated to score something where they’re meeting for the first time and to give little hints of there-might-be-something-bigger-here without putting the cart before the horse and having a grand love theme before it ever happens.

Q: Another film you did a few years earlier that also had a subtle time travel element to it was I’LL FOLLOW YOU DOWN…

Andrew Lockington: That was for a director named Richie Mehta. It’s a sort of steampunk orchestral score like INCARNATE was. There are several piano motifs that move through these rhythmic patterns that are the basis for a more legato, contemplative orchestral melodic score. It’s an interesting film in that it really contemplates the morality of time travel—it asks if it’s acceptable to change the timeline in order to stop something really bad from happening, if in this new timeline we lose something really good that had happened in the previous timeline. The music focuses on that dilemma and the idea of selflessness and selfishness when it comes to making choices.

Q: You also scored the drama SIDDHARTH for Mehta in 2013…

Andrew Lockington: That was a brilliant movie about a man in India who sends his 12-year-old son to work to a distant place to earn money for the family, but who later gets lost. It’s incredibly moving and extremely well directed and acted. It was an extremely challenging score to do. What we realized early on  was that there were so many elements to the story that were foreign—the film’s almost entirely in Hindi, it takes place in a part of the world that Western audiences may not understand the culture or the customs. The score has some Hindi influences but for the most part its orchestra and piano. We wanted the music to be non-cultural but be as human as possible so that we could use the music to try and build a bridge beyond the culture differences to allow audiences to focus on the human empathy on the story and what’s happening.  It’s a score I’m really proud of.

Q: Another film you scored for Richie Mehta was DELHI CRIME, which also takes place in India.

Andrew Lockington: That film originally started as a feature but Richie realized there was too much story to tell in a two-hour time period, so it turned into a TV series, based on the true story of the horrific sexual assaults and murders that happened on a bus in Delhi, India, in 2012 and the public outrage and pressure on the Delhi Police to solve it and bring the perpetrators to justice. When you’re dealing with something that is so real, there’s definitely a responsibility to not fictionalize or Hollywood-size the event. In terms of the score it was a challenge to make sure the music never made the audience feel like they were watching a show or a story—that it never felt less real because of that. And the other challenge was that the whole thing takes place in India—so a lot of people I talked to about the music said “Well, you want to write Indian music.” But Richie and I had a really different take on it, which I think ended up being quite successful, which is: this isn’t the India you see in Bollywood films; this is the dark underbelly that happens at night. It’s much more a dark, soulless, almost science fiction world than it was the Indian culture world. That prompted me to come up with a much different score. There’s a small, string orchestral element but most of it actually electronic, with me playing patterns and themes on various instruments I had in my studio. It actually, I think, contributed to the idea that the world of the film is the underbelly of darkness that could be anywhere. It was a big challenge but very rewarding in the end and how it came together, especially with how it’s been received; it’s been quite critically acclaimed, and it’s gone on to become a continuing, anthology series.

Q: What can you tell me about scoring THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS, which is another human drama that’s been quite well received?

Andrew Lockington: That film was selected as the opening film to the Berlin Film Festival. It was my first opportunity to work with Lone Schering, and I’ve been a big fan of her films for a long time—ONE DAY and AN EDUCATION being probably her best-known films. It’s set in New York City, where there were a lot of cultural elements to pull from. It was most important to come up with some main themes that defined the story but could sit and belong in the cultural context that they’re used in the film. It ended up being a piano/orchestral score with some classical elements. There are a few moments where the characters in the film are sitting in an alley and listening to this classical music as its spilling outside from a concert hall nearby. Lone and I decided early on, because that is such an important part of the show and the story, that I should write those pieces of music—they sound like they’re 18th Century classical pieces of music but are in fact my themes, and that’s the music that is coming from the concert hall. It also helped us creatively and artistically to represent these characters, because they’re in very hard times, so listening to something that’s beautiful and reflects opulence and higher class in a place where people aren’t dealing with all of their troubles. It gave us license to say “They get to participate in this kind of music as well. They deserve this beauty and respite.”

It was an enjoyable thing to sit down and take one of my themes and convert it into an 18th Century classical piece. It’s just a beautiful, beautiful film. Lone just did a great job in writing the script and the story. What I loved about it is that it’s a little piece of optimism and goodness that discovers how even in the hardest times and with people that you wouldn’t expect kindness from, there are little windows of moral righteousness and karma where good things happen to people who have injected good into the world as well. It’s not an easy film to watch—there are some very dark elements to it; but it does examine the kindness of humanity in an interesting kind of way.

Q: It’s apparent that over your career you have had the opportunity to score many different kind of films in many different ways.

Andrew Lockington: That is the goal. When projects present themselves which are asking me to do something I’ve done before, it’s really hard to enthusiastically get into a project like that. You’re always looking to do something you’ve never done before. I like blazing new ground, which is when magical things happen and when you expand your abilities and your craft. By that nature I think I’m drawn to things that are different than anything in my portfolio. It’s also how a lot of directors feel, too, so when you work with the same director you’re following them in their path to expand on their storytelling abilities and do something they’ve never done before.

Special thanks to Adrianna Perez of White Bear PR and to Megan at Andrew Lockington’s studio for assistance in facilitating this interview.


Reviews of Recently Released Soundtracks

ANNE WITH AN “E”/Amin Bhatia & Ari Posner/
Varese Sarabande – cd & digital

The Canadian series ANNE WITH AN “E,” based on the 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, concluded on CBC and Netflix with its third season last November. The soundtrack album with captivating melodies by the show’s composer duo Amin Bhatia and Ari Posner has been released on CD by Varèse Sarabande Records, following its digital release in December. “Doing a soundtrack felt natural because much like an orchestra, the series ANNE WITH AN “E” contains a great many components that are all moving in the same direction to tell beautiful and inspiring stories contained within,” said the composers. “There were certain instruments and styles of music that we decided on quite early in the process. The Celtic flavor was a natural choice from the very beginning, and this informed the instrumentation that usually includes fiddle, tin whistle, accordion, and mandolin. However, we were encouraged to experiment and expand those parameters wherever it felt right for the story, so that brought in other woodwinds and strings, ambient and percussive textures, solo cello, and of course piano.” With Canadian alt rockers The Tragically Hip’s captivating “Ahead by a Century” as the show’s telling opening theme, we’re off to an enjoyable start. The composers’ score tracks have been gathered from among the series’ three seasons. The score’s mix of Irish instruments with non-native acoustic instruments provides a welcome sonic relish to the show, its 18th Century time period, and its overall sound, ranging from quite festive and reflectively and poignant to elegantly moving. Nicely done.

BURN/Ceiri Torjussen/Wenallt Records – digital
Mike Gan’s feature film directorial debut begins when a gas station is held at gunpoint by a desperate man in need of cash, during which Melinda, a lonely and unstable attendant, tired of being overshadowed by her more outgoing co-worker, finds an opportunity to make a connection with the robber. It’s a compelling psychological thriller mixed with a crime drama, and it’s quite a provocative movie. Ceiri Torjussen’s score features virtuosic solo violin and cello (“Melinda’s Lie,” “Advil,” “Hallway Herring”) blended with gritty electronics which punctuate and maintain the story’s tense moments to lend a pulse to the drama and sonically embody the obsession Melinda has as she falls deeper out of control of the situation (“Caffeine Shot”). The solo violin assumes the role of main theme, heard during the brief introduction before the film flashes back to how everything started, while the violin and cello combine with the hefty beat of a drum in a pair of cues named “Hitchcock,” which really amps-up the sonic anxiety. In “Stop It,” “Money Bag Go!” and “He’s Gone,” the music resonates with gonglike beats to establish a frenetic urgency over the strings or synth, respectively, that are especially persuasive. Elsewhere, an electronic heartbeat effectively pushes the tension into high gear when danger peaks its highest, as in “Thievage and Cleavage” and especially “Power Outage.” A pretty piano run parlays over the strings in “Slo-mo Burn” to accentuate a particular harrowing scene in a very elegant fashion. Torjussen combines all of his primary elements into a heady climax in “Burn Finale” that resolves robustly before calming with a respite of smooth strings. In the midst of all of this, the score accentuates the psychological underpinnings of Melinda, superbly played by Tilda Cobham-Hervey, leading to some intensely effective musical treatments, as in “Billie’s Back!” and “Killer” that distinctly approach horror movie territory. The film and, especially, its score quite impressed me, and the music works its power efficiently to serve as a provocative listening experience on its own as well as in remembrance of the movie. Highly recommended.
The soundtrack is available digitally from iTunes, CDBaby here, and Spotify.

THE  COURIER/James Edward Barker and Tim Despic/Music.Film - digital
Composed by James Edward Barker (LEAN ON PETE, MARA, GWEN) and Tim Despic (FINAL SCORE, DEAD ON ARRIVAL, RETURN OF THE FOOTSOLDIER III), THE COURIER is about a vicious crime boss (Gary Oldman) who hires a mysterious female motorcycle courier (Olga Kurylenko) to kill the lone witness (Amit Shah) set to testify against him, until things twist and re-twist uncertainly. “The score is very contemporary, articulated and designed to make you feel like you are trapped in a meat grinder,” explains Barker. “The score is a race against time and an emotionally charged countdown, driven by danger signals from the bass and guitar FX, forged by tense strings, and wide incongruous horns, and always with a pulse from various percussive programmed beats.” The action music is pulse-driven electronica that alternates between the riot of colossal percussive beats (“Stairwell Fight,” “Rise Up, Rise Up,” “Big Shoot Out,” “The Shot and the Drone”) and delicately wafting tendrils of suspenseful (“The Chair P2,” “The Store Room,” “Stabbing Bryant,” “Rooftop,” and “Killing Frank”) which build a less chaotic and more claustrophobic tenseness; the former may be less appreciable to listen to on disc while the latter conveys a more intuitive emotional apprehension. The score opens with a purposefully over-modulated vocal (sung by Sadie Pickering) that sets an uncertain mood in “Opening Credits,” its processed sound creating an efficient tone of discomfort from the very start. “Slice” replaces raucous percussion with a driving rhythm from guitars over a soft drum beat and a rush of high-register synth sounds as it races to its conclusion, while “Two Sunsets from Home” contrasts the imposing drumming of its opening against the quiet elegance of strings and piano of its second half. Particularly likable moments are found in “Da Bike,” a fast current of Euro-electronica house beat, the dark trance-like remix of Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.3 in  “Rak Vs.”, the bright Tangerine Dream-esque arpeggiated rhythms of “Run to Rooftop,” and “Taping Up,” and the surging orchestral cries of “Killing Red.” The soundtrack may be a mixed bag for some, but in the midst of its progressive cacophony there is a sensitive portrayal of character-building to be found.

DARKNESS VISIBLE/Nainita Desai/MovieScore Media - digital
In Neil Biswas’s DARKNESS VISIBLE, London-raised Ronnie returns to his home in India to discover his mother Suleka has died under mysterious circumstances. As he uncovers a series of similar past murders, Ronnie’s own inner-darkness comes to light. Nainita Desai’s score is an enthralling mélange of textured atmospheres and haunting sonic tonalities that follow the story while also capturing the concept of evil that ultimately surrounds Ronnie. Utilizing an array of unconventional Indian classical instruments such as the bowed sarangi as well as ancient bowed instruments like the viol and violette, human voicings, and all manner of frightful sounds drifting through the soundscape, Desai creates a brooding, haunting, disturbing and yet fascinating sonic configuration. Her multi-layered sound patterns—rhythmic drones, sinewy bowings, ghostly Indian vocalizations, distant echoing percussion taps, suspended electronic particles, even a touch of modern electric guitar—become a presence of their own as it drifts through and impinges on the story and its characters, and creates a mesmerizing aura of uneasy anticipation, giving the film a delightful sense of discovery and discomfort throughout. Apart from the film, on disc, the music creates an alluring resonance to be savored. Recommended indeed!

UN DETECTIVE/Fred Bongusto/Quartet Records - cd
This 1969 Italian detective classic stars Franco Nero as Detective Belli, a brutish, cynical cop who has the looks and the wardrobe of a Raymond Chandler character, but a total disregard for doing the right thing. Adolfo Celi and Florinda Bolkan co-star, and the film has a likable jazzy score by Fred Bongusto, who sadly passed away last November. This CD offers the same musical content as the old and rare Japanese CD released by Avanz in the mid-‘90s, but the track order has been reorganized for a smoother listening experience. The score is built around the song “The World of the Blues,” performed by Shirley Harmer, and is given a number of clever instrumental arrangements largely for a classy rhythm section. In addition to this main theme, there is also a keyboard-driven love theme, an investigation theme for organ and piano, and an unusual tinkling theme for the murderer Belli is investigating, played on a solo piano’s high-notes the first time, and a music box the second time, which sounds almost like an ostinato you’d hear in a scary giallo. The album notes by Gergely Hubai informs us that most of the album’s tracks offer expertly edited collections of shorter cues based on the song’s primary musical idea, but this patchwork approach does not harm the album as a listening experience, which is in fact quite enjoyable.  There’s also a semi-rock track called “Love” (by composed by Stefano Torossi, heard behind an investigation scene) which features organ, trumpet, and electric guitar and is also very good even if it’s a bit alien to the tonality of the rest of the score. The album is issued in a limited edition of 300 copies, and is well worth picking up.

Biggest of the label’s Christmas gift releases last month, this collection of three expanded or remastered soundtracks—THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, EARTHQUAKE, and THE TOWERING INFERNO—is a treasure chest of vintage John Williams music for Irwin Allen’s three disaster epics. You likely already know the music (if not, it is simply suggested you remedy this immediately) so I’ll focus on what’s new about these collectible presentations. POSEIDON has been meticulously remastered from original vault materials for improved sound over previous releases, and features a reordered program of the movie’s source music and songs, now including the hit Maureen McGovern single version of “The Morning After.” The EARTHQUAKE score features a fully remixed and remastered presentation of the 1974 soundtrack album recording, and—for the first time—the world premiere of the actual film score recording, while TOWERING INFERNO is the most comprehensive and best-sounding representation of this score to date; Disc 1 showcases the original score presentation, and Disc 2 features alternates, source music, and the first official CD release of the 1974 soundtrack album master. All of this is a wealth of scrumptious disaster, housed in a sturdy slipcase with individual booklets for each of the three CDs, containing exclusive, detailed liner notes by Jeff Bond (POSEIDON, INFERNO) and Jon Burlingame (EARTHQUAKE). The remastering and varied expanded tracklist are thoroughly engaging and offer powerful listening experiences just this side of Sensurround, only really good. THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE is a personal favorite, being the first score that turned me on to Williams’ expertise, and the churning rhythmic counterpoint beneath his main theme remains among my favorite film musical moments. Very highly recommended as a terrific presentation of these seminal Williams’ works.

GYLT (game score)/Cris Velasco/Materia Collective LLC - digital
Award-winning genre game and film/TV composer Cris Velasco (BLOODBORNE, Clive Barker’s JERICHO, RESIDENT EVIL BIOHAZARD, Hulu’s FREAKISH) recently scored Tequila Works’ fantasy horror game “GYLT,” launched on Stadia, Google’s new cloud-based video-game streaming service. The film begins as a terrifying adventure in which teenage Sally is looking for her missing cousin, but the game also plunges into deeper psychological waters, and isn’t afraid to bring up the effects of bullying as a significant thinking point during the gameplay. Velasco’s score begins with eloquent mysterioso in “Sally’s Lullaby,” as a female voice intones a haunting serenade, later assumed by piano over strings—a lovely but disquieting beginning. This theme will circulate throughout the score, imparting a worrisome mysterioso in its wake. In the manner of a horror film, the game score will develop the music into more dramatic and more frightening measures; a darker, rougher tonality emerges in “What Is This Place,” and by the time “Violence” and “Stay Hidden!” roll around we’re in a potent mix of assertive string engagement and actively frightful sound design. The score occupies each of the game’s menacing creatures and dangerous territories while keeping Sally’s Lullaby close at hand to remind us what the stakes are. It’s a hearty and compelling score on its own, rich in textural interaction offset against the sympathetic strains of the main theme. Another winner from Velasco worth adding to your collection! Watch the game’s trailer here. Order the soundtrack from Materia Collective LLC here. Listen to an audio interview with Velasco about scoring GYLT at .
Listen to Track 1, “Sally’s Lullaby,” from the GYLT soundtrack below:

GRETEL & HANSEL/Rob (Robin Coudert)/
Waxwork Records – cd, digital,  & vinyl

The soundtrack to director Oz Perkins’ horror fairy-tale, in which a young girl leads her little brother into a dark wood in desperate search of food and work, only to stumble upon a nexus of terrifying evil, has been released by Waxwork Records on a variety of formats. In his score for the film, Paris-based composer Rob (MANIAC, HORNS, tried to create a universe through the intimacy between Gretel and Hansel as sister and brother while avoiding horror movie stereotypes when watching children left alone in a forest with a witch. The idea was to avoid the traditional musical schemes used in tales—such as the use of symphonic orchestras—and therefore find a more original and specific color, using both warm and synthetic sounds, with the predominance of the Mellotron and the MOOG synths. “I find it essential to create melodies that we can sing or whistle as, in horror cinema, it is usually the opposite, where the music rather has a tendency towards structure and abstraction. For this project, which is a film about kids, it seemed important to have that.” This lends an effective attractiveness to the score which, while sympathizing with the main characters, retains an aura of darkness and danger within his melodies and long-lined tonal strains. With the prevalence of the Mellotron and Moog, there’s an inevitable Tangerine Dream sonority to the sound (“Arise,” for example), while elsewhere the music suggests the harsh parlance of Carpenter and Howarth (“Agaric’”). Rob’s tonal textures are as intriguing as young Gretel and Hansel’s curiosity about the strange cabin in the woods, and the score becomes as much a mesmerizing tone poem as it is a preservation of a film score; it’s a remarkable accessible and delightful sonic journey in its own right, conveying captivating atmospheres and musical transformations (as with “Somniferum”) that end up being quite frightening and provocative. An especially powerful track is the near-heroic “Doom,” with its rising, rushing waves of harmonic synth; it’s reprised at the end with a synth choir and heraldic peals of triumph. Overall a very pleasing score on disc. Rob played all instruments himself on the score, except for additional cellos performed by his associate Moritz Reich.

Hitchcock: British International Pictures Collection/Various/
Kino Classics Blu-ray 2-Disc set

Kino has released a 5-film set of early movies by Alfred Hitchcock made during the height of the British film industry. Four of the films are silent and have been given new musical scores for this presentation. Each film showcases the filmmaker’s command of the medium and some of his earliest cinematic storytelling techniques that would form his oeuvre over the next fifty years. Included in the set are THE RING (1927), THE FARMER’S WIFE (1928), CHAMPAGNE (1928), THE MANXMAN (1929), and THE SKIN GAME (1931); the latter of which was a sound movie with no score except a generic main title overture. Three of the films include commentaries, and all include excerpts from Francois Truffaut’s famous Hitchcock interviews relevant to that film.
For THE RING, about two boxers who compete for the love of the same woman, Meg Morley provides a solo piano score, adopting a pleasing chord progression style of playing which gives the sound a rich sonic structure as it plays. This dramatic music sets a festive stage for the carnival setting as the film opens, and lends a pleasing air to the movie as it progresses, keeping the rhythm and pacing of the silent story rolling. Morley is especially good at capturing the miasmic, “drunken” music to go with Hitchcock’s “drunken” camera effects during the wedding scene. THE FARMER’S WIFE, a wonderfully underappreciated comedic (one might nearly say screwball comedy) film about a middle-aged widower with a profitable farm who, after his daughter weds, decides to remarry, but finds choosing a suitable mate a problematic process until he realizes the right woman was right under his nose all the time. A charming comedy. This movie is accompanied by piano over an underlying electronic or digital orchestra by Jon Mirsalis (also known for his alternate scores to 1920’s STOLEN MOMENTS, 1922’s THE YOUNG RAJA, and 1929’s WOMAN IN THE MOON). The electronic tonalities provide an excellent breadth and texture to the sound mix. An eloquent piano theme dominates the score in several pianistic variations, occasionally supporting the film’s funny moments with quirky humor. But overall the music supplies a very pleasant musical garnish over which the film flows very nicely. CHAMPAGNE, Hitchcock’s less successful second comedy, about a spoiled heiress who defies her father by running off to marry her lover until Daddy applies a few tricks of his own. Ben Model, a resident film accompanist at the Museum of Modern Art and the Library of Congress, supplies an effervescent solo piano score that plays straight-man to the film’s comedic engagements. It’s a pleasing performance that maintains a fairly buoyant tone, even when accompanying the more dramatic permutations of the film’s climax. THE MANXMAN, Hitchcock’s last fully silent movie, tells a brooding dramatic tale of a fisherman and a rising young lawyer who grew up as brothers, and now compete for the love of a beautiful lady. Andrew Earle Simpson (known for his alternate scores for 1918’s BROADWAY LOVE, 1921’s WHISPERING SHADOWS and 1928’s THE MYSTERIOUS AIRMAN) performs a piano score that is very dramatic in its intensity for the film’s dour storyline. Played largely in the lower registers and frequently in a shifting, tentative tempo, the music provides an ideal tone and texture for the film’s tense and complicated story. It’s definitely the darkest score of the four as it paints a sonic picture of rivalry, tragedy, and ultimate resolve.

THE ITALIAN JOB (1969)/Quincy Jones/Quartet – cd
Quartet celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the original Mini Cooper heist movie, in which Michael Caine, Noël Coward, Benny Hill, Raf Vallone, Rossano Brazzi and Margaret Blye collaborate in stealing gold bullion from an armored security truck. Scored between MACKENNA’S GOLD and BOB & CAROL & Ted & Alice, Jones provided a catchy, fun score which including the very cool hit song “On Days Like These,” performed by Matt Monro, which also appears in several instrumental arrangements on the album. Quartet presents the original album completely remastered from original tapes in its correct stereo format (in all previous editions, the channels were reversed). Also included is the original mono score as heard in the film, including alternate versions and cues not featured on the LP along with alternate and single versions of the songs. It’s a catchy and fun score that mirrors—and augments—the light and uniquely comedic style of the film. Definitely recommended. The collection has been restored and mastered by Chris Malone, and the album includes a 24-page full-color booklet contains liner notes by film music writer Jeff Bond. Listen to sample tracks from the album tracklist here.

NAKED [and other scores]/Andrew Dickson/Caldera – cd
Caldera Records’ December release is this selection of Andrew Dickson’s music for Mike Leigh’s films, most notably 1993’s NAKED. The four scores included here – the jazzy/folksy dulcimer-ish End Title from Leigh’s 1983 TV movie MEANTIME opens the tracklist, followed by a delightful 11-minute convergence of blues harmonica, recorder, viola and bass from 1988’s dramedy HIGH HOPES (which won Dickson the European Film Award for Best Composer in 1989), leaving the rest of the album available for extended cues from Leigh’s most notable films, NAKED (1993) and SECRETS & LIES (1996). The former is a raw and painful portrait of a young man (played by David Thewlis in a breakout performance) and his hedonistic wanderings through London’s night life. Dickson’s score for NAKED is as raw and relentless as the character’s narcissistic sexual appetite, driven by the incessant cyclical tension of Dickson’s harp ostinato. The music from the intense dramedy SECRETS & LIES is given a despondently dejected jazz atmosphere which clouds the emotive texture of its melodramatic familial and social discourse, This collection is an affecting group of tone poems for damaged souls and lost compassions. Dickson’s mix of folk and jazz idioms saturates the glimpses of humanity that Leigh explores in these thoughtful films. The album includes an audio interview with Leigh about working with Dickson as his composer.
See caldera-records.

Dominic Frontiere et al/La La Land – cd

In this very welcome follow-up to his THE QUINN MARTIN COLLECTION – VOLUME 1: COP AND DETECTIVE SERIES (reviewed in my June 2019 column), Jon Burlingame has produced another television spectacular with two discs of music from the classic 1967-68 science fiction TV series THE INVADERS, featuring music composed by Dominic Frontiere, Duane Tatro, Richard Markowitz, Irving Gertz and Sidney Cutner. The music is rife with tingly tension and saturating suspense, tranquil interludes and nervous spookery; Frontiere maintains something of the semblance of his approach to scoring THE OUTER LIMITS (THE INVADERS’ pilot was, in fact, scored with music from THE OUTER LIMITS before Frontiere came in to compose its first series episode) and there’s a lot of aggressive action from cyclic string patterns and brassy footfalls. The other composers had their own styles which fit nicely within THE INVADERS’ sonic oeuvre, and Burlingame describes its innerworkings in detail in his thorough liner notes. This album is a splendid addition to the growing availability of 1960’s television music (much of it, thankfully, Burlingame’s responsibility), and its fearful suspense and outright scare moments remain deliciously powerful to this day. A must-have for collectors of TV music from this era or enthusiasts of old-school science fiction TV music.

TOGO/Mark Isham/Walt Disney - digital
Walt Disney Records has released Mark Isham’s score to the new adventure drama TOGO. Directed by Ericson Core (INVINCIBLE, POINT BREAK) and starring Willem Dafoe (as the dog’s owner and musher, Leonhard Seppala), Julianne Nicholson, Thorbjørn Harr, Michael Greyeyes, and Christopher Heyerdahl, this poignant and emotive adventure film tells the untold true story set in the winter of 1925 that treks across 600 miles of treacherous, storm-stricken terrain of the Alaskan tundra to deliver urgently needed medicine to the town of Nome during an epidemic of diphtheria. Reasonably known as the 1925 Serum Run to Nome, a dog by the name of Balto ran the final leg of the journey (about 30 miles) and, courtesy of a news reporter and photographer present when Balto and his musher Gunnar Kaasen arrived in Nome, received most of the glory and fame, but it was actually Seppala and 12-year-old Togo who ran the bulk of the run (250 miles) to retrieve and return with the serum and are the real heroes of the story. The film is now streaming at Disney+; review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes’ critical consensus, which I heartily agree with (for a change) reads: “An endearing and exciting underdog story that benefits greatly from its stars (canine and human alike), TOGO is a timeless tale, well-told.” The film shuffles the timelines, offsetting the hazardous serum run against earlier moments of Togo’s growing up, seemingly ill-fit to be a sled dog.
Much of the story’s emotive stature is supplied by Mark Isham’s orchestral score which supports the film’s adventure, drama, and spirited heart. Expressive runs by the string section, including poignant and powerful soloing (by Charlie Bisharat & Alyssa Park, violins; Andrew Duckles, viola; and Andrew Shulman, cello) underline the film’s emotional dispersion and dominate the soundtrack both in underscoring the dog’s stamina and drive and during the story’s more poignant moments (“Last Legs” and the conclusive “Harnessed To Your Heart,” for example); while more festive music conveys the excitement of Togo and Seppala’s win of the 1915 “All Alaska Sweepstakes” dog sled race, and a touch of period-acknowledging fiddle (“Helpless”). The story’s more dramatic moments are conveyed with an array of drums over an underlying flow of tension-building synth, as in “Wrong Way” in which sled team nearly sails off a cliff face, and “Perilous Sound,” when Seppala leads the dogs and sled across Alaska’s frozen Norton Sound to save crucial time and become trapped when the ice begins to thaw and break up beneath them. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable score both in the film and when listened to on the soundtrack.
Watch trailer:

UNDERWATER/ Marco Beltrami & Brandon Roberts/Walt Disney - digital
Marco Beltrami and Brandon Roberts jointly composed and conducted the music for UNDERWATER, the new horror film from director William Eubank (SIGNAL), in which a crew of aquatic researchers must get to safety after an earthquake devastates their submerged laboratory and releases mythic, monstrous sea predators from the ocean floor. Beltrami and Roberts have collaborated on numerous projects since 2013, including LOGAN, THE WOLVERINE, WARM BODIES, WORLD WAR Z, and National Geographic’s Oscar-winning documentary, FREE SOLO, which earned the composers with an Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Composition for a Documentary Series or Special. “The fun challenge on this score was to balance the hybrid nature of the musical elements so they could convincingly exist in an electronic world,” the composers said. “Will [Eubank] is very influenced by electronic music and offered incredible encouragement to explore new ways of processing traditional orchestral elements to create this musical soundscape. Female vocals played a big part in this score, and we experimented with an endless array of unorthodox techniques to evoke the epic, tense and at times, very emotional elements of the film.” Right from the start (“The Bends”), the score evokes a great sensation of claustrophobic confined space with wailing instruments and haunting voices, emanating an organic harmonic sonority along with sound clusters and sinewy strands of tonality shifting against one another. The score avoids atonal sound design in favor of fibrous instrumental, electronic, and vocal tone and texture patterns. “Voyage to the Bottom of the C” powerfully suggests the feeling of submergence as the crew descends toward the underwater lab. A two-note, drifting cadence becomes “Norah’s Theme” for Kristen Stewart’s character, which both resonates with the dark colorations of the tonality and reflects her captivity within the submerged facility; it will recur in “Norah’s Choice” in a much more redemptive, rising fashion. The first sign of danger, when the underwater building has “Sprung a Leak,” prompts a suffocating pattern of near-percussive sound clusters that serves to elevate one’s heartbeat, and has an even more potent effect later in the film when the threat of the undersea creatures takes hold. These patterns reflect the swaying of the surf far above, reinforce the sensation of being far underwater, and maintain a potent growing sense of quiet unease that is far more worrisome than adopting slamming percussives and layered musical sound design. Those effects, however, do have their place for more potent scary moments, as in “What Was That,” where the characters are spooked by an unknown entity, or the screaming pulses and descending blocks of low sound terrorizes the cast in “Eat Me.” In the case of “Behemouth,” a musical construction rises up suddenly with a grunting, rising sound pattern. “Bikini Run,” on the other hand, proffers a near-heroic resonance as the crew makes a break for freedom, only to meet with the sonic blasts and dizzying swirls of approaching panic that curtail any sense of escape until the softer harbinger of “Rapid Ascent” seems to suggest a means of escape. “Seems to” being the operative phrase: when underwater it’s not over till it’s over, and “Under the C” both forms a motivic bookend with “Voyage to the Bottom…” as the story is resolved, but not without a cost. UNDERWATER is a fine horror score with lots of sonic potency while largely avoiding jarring jump scares, allowing the breadth of its harmonic texture and phrasing to create an ongoing apprehension which is as delightful as it is haunting.

THE WINDERMERE CHILDREN/Alex Baranowski/Sony Classical - digital
BBC & Wall to Wall’s post-war drama THE WINDERMERE CHILDREN tells the true story of one thousand child survivors of the Holocaust that were granted the right to come to the UK at the end of World War II. Three hundred of them in particular—presumed orphans of the Holocaust, with only a few meager possessions and little or no English—were brought to Lake Windermere to have the opportunity to recover in this idyllic country setting. London-based composer Alex Baranowski (NUREYEV: LIFTING THE CURTAIN, KES REIMANINED, McCULLIN) has created a delicate and sensitive orchestral score that provides an emotive accompaniment to the story, and makes a very stimulating listen on its own. The film is both sad and beautiful, with the music supporting both characters and viewers alike through the heartache and healing the story’s experience provides. “The process of scoring the film was by far the most emotional journey I’ve ever been on whilst composing anything at all,” Baranowski described. “The story resonated with the experiences of my own Polish grandparents during and after the war: foreigners in a new country with nowhere to which to return; an entire family killed or murdered; making sense of their experiences through music, painting, and writing poetry. Being able to go through my own voyage of discovery of my family past whilst helping to tell this quite beautiful story was an absolute privilege.” Construed via purposefully slow, weaving patterns of bowed strings often set against plucked strings from a variety of instruments, the score conveys an atmosphere of the period and locale while exploring the story through the perspective of the children. A couple of the characters – Salek, Sala – have their own themes for specific moments (Salek sits by the gate, certain his brother will one day arrive to collect him; Sala pours her grief into painting), and a poignant Hebrew lullaby, “Rozhinkes Mit Mandlen” (Raisins and Almonds), provides solace for some. “Letters from the Red Cross” describes the haunting grief that is felt when the children are informed their families have perished. By restricting the musical palette almost entirely to stringed instruments, the score focuses intimately on the organic – the kids, the countryside, the flavors of grief and of building new lives as the story progresses. Thus the arc of both film and score is the journey from trepidation to reassurance as the children grow into acceptance of their new homes and families, and the sensitivity with which Baranowski guides this arc makes for an especially graceful and empathetic sonority. The main theme opens the score quite tentatively with a child’s vocalise (“A New Beginning”), while by the end, in the conclusive “The Windermere Children,” the same vocalise is more reassured, settled, and spirited. The album closes with the reflective “A Life Lived,” a serene duet for piano and violin that emotionally punctuates the journey, as the film ends with the image of cast members joined by their real-life counterparts. A very moving score and a composer to watch. The album is available from these sources.
Listen to the main theme from THE WINDERMERE CHOLDREN courtesy of Sony Music:

WOMEN OF THE NIGHT (Keizervrouwen)/Hannes De Maeyer & Eloi Ragot/Riva Media Records - digital
This nerve-wracking thriller series from The Netherlands brings the underworld of Amsterdam and Antwerp to the fore. It has to do with such familial concepts as love, family ties, and dangerous secrets in the world of luxury escort and drug gangs. Dutch composer De Maeyer is best known for providing the feature films GANGSTA, BLACK and IMAGE with impressive scores; Ragot is a French film composer, multi-instrumentalist and sound designer best known for creating intense, sensorial and immersive soundtracks (the Belgian noir series LA TRÊVE [The Break] and the Canadian feature RESERVOIR. “For this score, we tried to maintain an overall ominous color, working with a varied instrumentation—piano, electronics, strings, electric guitar, beats—for all different themes, without losing the feeling of one score that fits together,” said De Maeyer. “A couple of themes feature a bowed acoustic guitar, using a violin bow instead of picking the guitar strings, which produced a really nice rough, unique and unexpected sound.” The music is very compelling, with an ambient tonality that is both tension-building and increasingly ominous as the composers develop the material into further layers and atmospheres. The sonic treatment is quite interesting and often mesmerizing, maintaining a flowing darkness that fits the series’ main characteristics, which makes for a very provocative listen on its own.


News: Forthcoming Soundtracks & Film Music News

The Guild of Music Supervisors held its landmark 10th annual award ceremony on February 6th celebrating outstanding achievement in the craft of Music Supervision in movies, television, games, advertising, and trailers. Over 1,000 attendees joined the Guild to honor the 31 crafts makers, who were recognized for their stellar musical accomplishments in 2019. Industry music legends Burt Bacharach and Bob Hunka crowned the evening as Bacharach received this year’s Icon Award, and Hunka received the prestigious Legacy Award. For the complete winners list for the 2020 10th Annual Guild of Music Supervisors Awards, see 

Lakeshore Records has released TRUTH BE TOLD (Apple TV+ Original Series Soundtrack), available now exclusively on Apple Music. The score, which merges jazz and new wave influences, is by EMMY®-nominated composer John Paesano (DAREDEVIL TV Series, THE MAZE RUNNER Trilogy).  Jed Kurzel (SEBERG, ALIEN: COVENANT, ASSASSIN’S CREED) has composed his brother Justin’s latest film, TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG; Lakeshore Records has released the soundtrack, available digitally worldwide. The Awgie Award-winner has opened in Australian theaters and is coming to UK and Ireland cinemas on February 28. The US theatrical release will be announced shortly. Lakeshore has also released the digital soundtrack for the 10-episodes Facebook Watch original series LIMETOWN by composer Ronit Kirchman (THE SINNER, NOW YOU SEE ME). “LIMETOWN is filled with resonant themes that I loved working with as a composer,” Kirchman said. “What happens to empathy as we humans continue to push the boundaries of technology? What happens to cruelty? The technology amplifies all of our core human struggles. In certain places, the score quite literally represents the imagined sonic measurements of human and animal emotion. The ambitious scope of LIMETOWN’s ideas allowed me to incorporate a wide musical palette, ranging from machine sounds and modulations, to heartfelt melody, to the sounds of the orchestra unleashed in a new way.”

Christophe Beck, who previously scored ANT-MAN and ANT-MAN AND THE WASP, is set to score the forthcoming six-episode series WANDAVISION. Based on the Marvel Comics characters Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch and Vision, WANDAVISION is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, sharing continuity with the films of the franchise. The events of the series take place after the 2019 film AVENGERS: ENDGAME; Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany reprise their roles from the film series. “(I) really enjoy working with [Marvel] and I’m really excited for this upcoming TV project which is very, very unique and special in a lot of ways,” Beck said in a December interview with the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers . WANDAVISION will be released later in 2020 on the Disney+ streaming service.

A digital soundtrack to the BBC’s SERENGETI series has been released by XIX Serengeti Productions Limited. The 8-track mini-album features tracks written, produced and composed by Will Gregory (WINGED PLANET, SNOW CHICK: A PENGUIN’S TALE; best known as the lead keyboardist, producer, and composer of the electronic music duo Goldfrapp), and is performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra. Additional music and vocals from Cathy Dennis, Lola Lennox, Joshua Ledet are included. Sample or order the mini-album from amazon. For an interview with Gregory about scoring the series, see this Billboard link.

Speaking of impressive BBC documentaries, Silva Screen has just released the soundtrack to SEVEN WORLDS ONE PLANET, scored by Jacob Shea with a series theme composed by Shea and Hans Zimmer. “Following up PLANET EARTH II and BLUE PLANET II was no easy task, but the BBC have outdone themselves yet again with the magnificent SEVEN WORLDS, ONE PLANET,” said Zimmer. “It was a true honor to return to the series to compose the theme with Jacob Shea for Bleeding Fingers Music. These stories of nature are so important for us to show and preserve for future generations, and I am honored to be a part of spreading this message.” The digital soundtrack is available now from amazon; the CD will be released on Feb. 21st.

John Debney will score the upcoming faith-based biographical drama I STILL BELIEVE. The movie, which tells the real-life story of Christian music singer Jeremy Camp, is directed by Jon & Andrew Erwin (I CAN ONLY IMAGINE, WOODLAWN) and stars KJ Apa, Britt Robertson, Shania Twain and Gary Sinise. It will open in theaters nationwide on March 13, 2020 by Lionsgate.
- via filmmusicreporter

Intrada has released a “greatly expanded” 2-CD release of the powerful James Newton Howard score from the 1993 disaster film ALIVE. The Disney Touchstone Pictures film dramatized the harrowing real-life tale of 1972 Uruguay rugby team whose plane crashed in the Argentinian Andes while en route to a match in Chile. The survivors undergo an incredible ordeal against freezing elements, starvation and the depths of depression. Howard found inspiration in his score for primary themes in both magnificent locales and in the indomitable will of crash victims to survive… at any cost. But emotionally rich music is balanced by intense and aggressive material as well. See Intrada. Also from the label is Laurence Rosenthal’s score for the powerful but oddly obscure 1961 historical drama THE POWER AND THE GLORY. See the details here.

Frank Ilfman is scoring the forthcoming action thriller GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE, directed by Navot Papushado and starring Karen Gillan, Lena Headey, Paul Giamatti, Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh, and Carla Gugino. The story has to do with an estranged mother-and-daughter (Scarlet and Eva, respectively) who both happen to be assassins. After losing control on a mission, putting an innocent 8-year-old girl in danger, Eva has no choice but to face her old cronies unscrupulously. And Scarlet and her band have no choice but to return to try to help her.  – via AsturScore

Milan Records has released COLOR OUT OF SPACE with music by Grammy Award-winning saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and composer Colin Stetson. Directed by Richard Stanley (HARDWARE, DUST DEVIL), the film is based on the short story by H.P. Lovecraft. After a meteorite lands in the front yard of their farmstead, Nathan Gardner (Nicolas Cage) and his family find themselves battling a mutant extraterrestrial organism as it infects their minds and bodies, transforming their quiet rural life into a technicolor nightmare. Stetson, a noted collaborator to Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, Tom Waits, and more, Stetson is known for his genre-defying avant-jazz records as well as critically-acclaimed original scores for Ari Aster’s HEREDITARY, Hulu series THE FIRST, and RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2, is also set to score the new Adult Swim anime miniseries UZUMAKI, an adaptation of Junji Ito’s horror manga.

Also from Milan is the music of Sonya Belousova and Giona Ostinelli for the Netflix original series THE WITCHER. Based on the best-selling novel by Andrzej Sapkowski, THE WITCHER tells the story of Geralt of Rivia, a mutated monster-hunter for hire, as he journeys toward his destiny in a turbulent world where people often prove more wicked than beasts. Of the soundtrack, composers Belousova and Ostinelli said: “The best part of scoring THE WITCHER is the constant stream of unlimited creative opportunities this unique and vast universe provides. We wrote and produced songs, folk tunes, dances, and score, collaborated with virtuoso soloists and phenomenal artists, recorded unique historical instruments, many of which were crafted specifically for THE WITCHER, as well as personally performed and recorded over 60 instruments in order to create over 8 hours of an exciting original soundtrack.”

On December 18, Quartet Records released a mammoth 11-CD box “Film Music Collection,” compiling revised and remastered editions of all the soundtracks from the films on which director Pedro Almodóvar and composer Alberto Iglesias have worked together—a partnership that celebrates 25 years of uninterrupted collaboration this year. The box set includes 11 CDs in individual cardboard sleeves and a 60-page booklet. The set is already sold out at the label, so search secondary market sellers to purchase. For more information on the release, see Quartet.

Also recently released by Quartet—and still available—is the premiere of Nora Orlandi’s tuneful score to IL DIARIO PROIBITO DI FANNY (1969; The Hidden Diary of Fanny), an anthology film starring Giovanna Lenzi as four different women, all named Fanny. The film touches upon all the hot-button issues of 1968: illegal immigrants from the Eastern bloc, the Prague Spring, the Italian star cult and even abortion. Since all four characters are played by the same actress, Orlandi uses only a handful of motives and dresses them up in different disguises ranging from the fun fair (“Luna Park”) to a casual dance number (“Fox Trot”), an Italian Western deguello (“Come in un western”), and even a waltz performed by the composer herself (“Valzerino con voce”). Released previously only as a 2-track single, Quartet’s CD presents the entire score for the first time, mastered by Claudio Fuiano from the stereo master tapes vaulted in mint conditions at Gruppo Sugar. The 8-page liner notes by Gergely Hubai discuss the film, the composer and the score. Sample tracks from the tracklist here.

Tyler Bates (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, DEADPOOL 2, JOHN WICK, 300, WATCHMEN) has composed the Paramount Network original series 68 WHISKEY. The film is a comedic drama which follows a multicultural band of Army medics stationed in Afghanistan on a base nicknamed “The Orphanage.” Based on the Israeli television series CHARLIE GOLF ONE, 68 WHISKEY stars Sam Keeley, Jeremy Tardy, and Gage Golightly. It premiered Jan. 15th and airs Wednesday nights on the Paramount Network.
- via filmmusicreporter

Varese Sarabande Records announces their first CD Club batch of 2020 – both soundtracks for movies based on Stephen King novels: Danny Elfman’s DOLORES CLAIBORNE (1995) and W. G. Snuffy Walden’s THE STAND. DOLORES CLAIBORNE is an often overlooked and grossly under-appreciated score; the 2CD Deluxe Edition greatly expands the soundtrack from 9 to 31 tracks. Limited to 2500 copies. Walden’s THE STAND 2-CD Deluxe Edition contains both the 1994 soundtrack release and the then-previously unreleased bonus disc compiled for the Stephen King Soundtrack Collection box set in 2017. The score is constructed around five distinctive character themes plus a variety of ambient and aggressive motifs and musical designs, and a bit of roots-styled traveling music. Limited to 1000 copies. Both on sale now on

Plaza Mayor Company Ltd. has released Lance Warlock’s (A DEADLY PLACE, BROKEN, THE EVIL DOWN THE STREET) score to the crime-action film 24 LITTLE HOURS, directed by Paul Knight and starring Kris Johnson, Fiona Skinner, Marc Bannerman. December brought the label’s soundtracks to the 2019 China/Hong Kong co-production CHASING THE DRAGON II: Wild Wild Bunch, composed by Day Tai (THE INVINCIBLE DRAGON, MASTER Z: THE IP MAN LEGACY, PROJECT GUTENBERG). The film is co-directed by Jason Kwan and Jing Wong, and is based on a real-life spate of kidnappings that terrorized Hong Kong’s elite in the 1990s. Also released last month is Salvador Espinosa’s comedy GUADALUPE REYES, with music composed by Andrés Sánchez Maher & Gus Reyes. Spotify links to sample these scores are posted on the label’s
Facebook page.

The soundtrack to THE COUNTY, with music by Icelandic composer and producer Valgeir Sigurðsson, known for his immersive sound-world, often blurring the lines between contemporary classical writing and electronic production, has been released by Bedroom Community. “Director Grímur Hákonarson and I have worked together a few times in the past, so it helped that we already had a dialog and a fluidity in the way we work together,” said the composer. “First I watched the film a few times, and then I turned off the screen and just wrote music in response to what I had seen. I often do this because I want to make a score that flows with its own narrative. On Grímur’s suggestion, we used a lot of synths and electronic textures, and also used some of the real sounds from the film for the score… In the final mix I think we cut about 50% of the score… but on the soundtrack release I keep many of these elements because I feel that they are integral to the music and necessary when it is stripped of the images it was created for.”

Composers and longtime musical collaborators Jacob Yoffee and Roahn Hylton teamed up for the 8-episode documentary series produced, hosted and narrated by Robert Downey Jr., THE AGE OF A.I. The series, released on YouTube Premium, features experts in science, philosophy, and other areas as they examine the impact of artificial intelligence and how it is transforming the way we live and work. The composers were originally asked to deliver a signature sci-fi sound, which is commonly electronic-heavy; after their initial approach, the duo and their collaborators quickly realized that this wasn’t the right fit for the series and landed on a sound that was more human and organic. The resulting score is orchestral and acoustic chamber music fused with electronic elements and perfectly speaks to the message of the docuseries. Watch a short video with the composers discussing their music and the larger portrait of what THE AGE OF A.I. is all about:

Dickon Hinchliffe (PEAKY BLINDERS) has scored the upcoming Netflix documentary INTO THE DEEP. The film is directed by Emma Sullivan who started documenting amateur inventor Peter Madsen in 2016. A year later, Madsen brutally murdered Swedish journalist Kim Wall on his homemade submarine in the waterways outside Copenhagen. The film will debut at this year’s Sundance Film Festival before premiering on Netflix later this year.
- via filmmusicreporter

European-based composer Eloi Ragot has recently scored the Canadian drama film RÉSERVOIR, the feature film debut of director Kim St-Pierre. Ragot described the score as an intimate short work. 2DD Music has released a digital soundtrack which can be sampled or downloaded from these links. See also my review of WOMEN OF THE NIGHT in this column’s review section above. For more information on the composer, see his website.

The European Film Academy and EFA Productions awarded John Gürtler the European Original Score award for his music to Nora Fingscheidt’s drama SYSTEM CRASHER during the 32nd European Film Awards, in Berlin on December 7th.  According to the jury: “The music in SYSTEM CRASHER is modern, virtuosic, impulsive and surprising. John Gürtler has transformed the unspeakable into music. Where words are no longer possible, his film music manages to function as a non-verbal language, reflecting the inside of the protagonist and carrying the viewer along with it.” Said the composer: “SYSTEM CRASHER marks my fourth collaboration with Nora… We worked hard on developing a specific sound for a couple of key moments in the film… All of these different ideas and mini worlds - from fast-paced electronica to explosive free jazz drums, children’s music, EDM pop and  even free spirited kraut rock - come together for brief moments in a number of cues. As those different ideas and sounds reappear, we keep the score from falling apart.”

Paul Haslinger (UNDERWORLD, HALT AND CATCH FIRE, DEATH RACE, RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER) is the composer of the new CBS All Access original series INTERROGATION. The true crime drama tells of a story that spanned more than 30 years, in which a young man was charged and convicted of brutally murdering his mother. The series will premiere on February 6.
- via filmmusicreporter

From visionary writer-director Jennifer Reeder comes KNIVES AND SKIN, the ‘80s-inspired coming-of-age thriller starring Kate Arrington, Marika Engelhardt, and Tim Hopper. The film features score by Nick Zinner, guitarist of American indie rock band Yeah Yeah Yeahs! The award-winning film made its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival and opened in select theaters and VOD last December. Lakeshore Records has released the soundtrack digitally. See here.

Season 2 of Radio Télévision Belge Francophone’s cyber-crime TV series UNIT 42 (UNITÉ 42) is now showing on France 2. Composers Michel Duprez & Thierry Plas created the score to UNITÉ 42’s first season and got back together to co-compose Season 2. According to both composers, the global direction was already set during Season 1 in close collaboration with producer John Engel, and they continued to develop it further for Season 2. The series’ Original Soundtrack will be out soon; sample some tracks from the second season on Soundcloud. To learn more about the creative process behind the score, listen to the interview Michel Duprez had with La Radio du Cinéma (French audio). UNITÉ 2’s first season digital soundtrack can be heard or downloaded from amazon.

Alex Somers (CAPTAIN FANTASTIC, HONEY BOY, ALOHA, MANHATTAN) is composing the original score for the upcoming Netflix documentary MISS AMERICANA. The film is directed by Lana Wilson (AFTER TILLER) and follows Grammy and American Music Award winner Taylor Swift as she learns to embrace her role not only as a songwriter and performer, but as a woman harnessing the full power of her voice. The film opens this month at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and will be released later this year on Netflix.
- via filmmusicreporter

Atlantic Screen Scores announces the digital release of the original motion picture score to the Roadside Attractions/Foresight Unlimited film THE LAST FULL MEASURE, written and directed by Todd Robinson. The film’s original orchestral score was written by Philip Klein, who makes his major motion picture debut as a composer. The film tells the true story of Vietnam War hero William H. Pitsenbarger (Jeremy Irvine), a U.S. Air Force Pararescuemen medic who personally saved over sixty men. During a rescue mission on April 11, 1966, he was offered the chance to escape on the last helicopter out of a combat zone heavily under fire, but he stayed behind to save and defend the lives of his fellow soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division, before making the ultimate sacrifice in one of the bloodiest battles of the war. “From the moment Todd and I began shaping the score, we both agreed that the story deserved an orchestral score that was boldly thematic and memorable,” said Klein. “Once we found our theme, I began weaving in strains of solo instruments, soft children’s choir, and processed sounds to fill out this world we enter and hint at the deeply complex psychology of war. Todd’s directive to me was always clear: write with integrity and sincerity. I don’t believe there was a soul who worked on this film that wasn’t moved to reach a little deeper and craft their work as a love letter to all who have served and continue to do so.”
Stream or purchase the soundtrack here.



Film Music on Vinyl

Waxwork announces the vinyl release of Tangerine Dream’s first film score, William Friedkin’s 1977 film SORCERER. Re-mastered from the original source audio and pressed to 180 gram “Rainforest Green and Black” swirled vinyl, the release features deluxe packaging, old style gatefold jackets with satin coating, exclusive liner notes by director William Friedkin, and new art by Tony Stella. For more details, see Waxwork.

Varese Sarabande has announced that the Netflix Original Series, THE DARK CRYSTAL: AGE OF RESISTANCE, digitally released last year, will get a special album release on vinyl. Fans of The Jim Henson Company’s fantasy series can purchase a 2-LP set in a gatefold jacket, which includes highlights from both the Volume 1 soundtrack, featuring music by composer Daniel Pemberton, and Volume 2 soundtrack with melodies by Pemberton and Samuel Sim, across four sides. The vinyl album is now available for pre-order and releases on February 7th, 2020.

Tiger Lab Vinyl announces a limited exclusive 2xLP pressed on salt and peppa colored vinyl of the Japanese anime horror classic: DEMON CITY SHINJUKU, housed in a gatefold packaging and remastered for vinyl with 39 total tracks. The album contains the full score to the classic 80s anime by Motokazu Shinoda and is the first time this score has been made available in any format. DEMON CITY SHINJUKU was a staple for anime newbies during the Japanamiation era. This OVA aired weekly during the Sci-Fi channel’s Saturday Anime feature in the 90s, and became a classic gateway film for anime and horror fans alike. Until now, the score has been stored—unreleased—in the Japan Home Video archives. Tiger Lab Vinyl worked with Japan Home Video to bring Mr. Shinoda’s beautiful synth score to the public. Available from Light In The Attic.

Waxwork Records announces the debut release of the DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE original motion picture soundtrack. Available for the very first time in any format, the complete soundtrack by composer Richard Einhorn (SHOCK WAVES, THE PROWLER) comes to vinyl as a deluxe double LP package. This 1979 American slasher/psychological horror movie is a chilling and gruesome grindhouse favorite that was regularly screened on the infamous early 1980’s 42nd Street movie theater strip in NYC. The soundtrack features the composer’s known minimal electronic scoring style in which early analog synthesizers are fused with a dissonant, haunting sound design. Waxwork’s debut soundtrack features the complete film score including previously unreleased additional and unused music scored for the film. The album features include 2xLP 180 gram “Steel and Smoke” colored vinyl, new art by Marc Schoenbach, deluxe packaging, old style gatefold jackets with satin coating, and re-mastered audio from the original 1979 analog master tapes. This and other new genre vinyl soundtracks are available from Light In The Attic

Death Waltz Recording Company has released the score and the songs featured in Alex Winter and Tom Stern’s 1983 science fiction comedy FREAKED. Available for the first time in any format, this 2XLP set Disc One features songs from the movie on Disc One—wild tracks from the likes of Butthole Surfers, Blind Idiot God, Henry Rollins, Axiom Funk, Iggy Pop, and more—and features Kevin Kiner’s incredibly nuanced original score—which rivals any number of Amblin’s films from the 1980s—on Disc Two. “FREAKED is truly gonzo, funny as all hell, has an incredible cast, absolutely killer practical FX, and a soundtrack that features everyone from Henry Rollins to George Clinton along with Kevin Kiner’s beautiful orchestral score,” said Spencer Hickman, Mondo & Death Waltz Recording Company Head of Music. The album is pressed on 2X 140 Gram colored vinyl and features liner notes by directors Tom Stern and Alex Winter. The album is available for sale now at mondotees.

Death Waltz had also announced their definitive vinyl release of Ennio Morricone’s score to Dario Argento’s 1972 Giallo classic FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET (a.k.a. 4 MOSCHE DI VELLUTO GRIGIO).

The CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA original television score and soundtrack for Season 1 (Parts 1 & 2), composed by Adam Taylor (THE HANDMAID'S TALE, CURVATURE, BEFORE I FALL) has been released by Waxwork. It’s a deluxe triple LP that features full artwork by comic artist Robert Hack, who also fully illustrated the opening title sequence for the TV series. The score and soundtrack have been pressed to 180 gram colored vinyl featuring two variants: “Satanic Splatter” and solid red, orange, and yellow vinyl. From Waxwork Records.


Film Music Books

Hollywood Film Music in the
Early Sound Era, 1926-1934

By Michael Slowik
Columbia University Press, 2014
384 pages, paperback. $32.00

This is a comprehensive and well-researched analysis on a little-known portion of film music history. While Slowik’s primarily focus seems to be arguing that Max Steiner’s score for KING KONG (1933) was not, in fact, the first important attempt at integrating background music into sound film, the author also takes a close look at the industry’s early sound era (1926–1934), revealing a more extended and fascinating story. Rather than being the trailblazing musical achievement that many have so attributed, Slowik contends that KONG’s score actually drew upon many techniques which had been in place in film scores during the early sound films in years previous.

The book’s first five chapters produce a valuable exploration of the variety of film music strategies that were tested, abandoned, and kept in these early years following the rise of sound film. He explores early film music experiments and accompaniment practices in opera, melodrama, musicals, radio, and silent films and discusses the impact the advent of synchronized dialogue had on developing cinema. Chapter 5 (“Music and Other Worlds”) is of particular interest and it focuses on film music’s value to fantasy cinema.

Still, one can’t help feel that the studious examination of these prior scores serves only as a lead up to knock KONG’s place in film music history from its perch; but Slowik has some valid points which are worth considering. Many have taken for granted KONG’s status-quo as a stunningly innovative work from which the Golden Age of film music thereafter clearly sprung, but Slowik argues, based on his studious assessment of the music in more than two hundred films and their scores from the early sound era, that KONG’s music does not deserve its place of unique significance in the timeline of film musical achievement.

This thesis trickles through the book until the author lays out his position in the book’s sixth and final chapter, “Reassessing King Kong, or The Hollywood Film Score, 1933-1934.” Slowik’s research is scholarly and academic, and he brings to his discussion a credible and studious analysis of prior scores from the early period, in which his point-by-point examination indeed challenges the popular notion; while he recognizes the score’s effectiveness in its film, he argues that its influence as a groundbreaker in film music history is, in fact, unwarranted. This viewpoint will likely be a contentious one, daring to darken KONG’s more than eight-decades of musical supremacy as a groundbreaking work of fantasy cinema; but Slowik’s aim (I believe) is not to besmirch Steiner’s score as a magnificent work of film music in its own right; only to suggest that film music in its infancy was not wholly primordial and that the KONG score arose from years of previous film music development; it’s place stop Skull Mountain may be earned but it did not arise there by itself all of a sudden.

“At the very least, pre-KING KONG scores demonstrate that the use of nondiegetic music to convey the unfamiliar, exotic, or fantastic world was not a concept that sprang full-blown from the heads of KING KONG’s filmmakers,” Slowik writes in Chapter 6 as he begins his reassessment of the KONG score (p. 235).  “Rather, it was a logical application of a preexisting film music assumption.”

As a lifelong admirer of the power of KONG’s score, I find Slowik’s arguments disturbing but compelling, and his intricate research tends to support his argument without actually besmirching the monumental effectiveness of Steiner’s music for the film. There’s value on Slowik’s meticulous appraisal of what place the KONG score belongs in the developing rise of Hollywood film music, although I do not find that his considered opinion has necessarily tarnished KONG’s regal reputation as a film score. In terms of general drama, adventure and suspense cinema, KONG may have drawn from prior advances, but its significance as a major work in the fantasy/monster movie genre remains untouched. None of the prior films Slowik references as predecessors of KONG’s musical stylings are within the same genre. However, there’s value in recognizing the antecedents this mighty score has in its film musical genealogy and giving these mostly-forgotten prior scores their proper due, while reserving for KING KONG its place as a masterful work in which the elements that were advanced in prior sound cinema came together in such a wonderful way to create a masterwork of fantasy filmmaking. KONG may not have arisen out of a void, but its use of what came before in the burgeoning growth of newfound genre had not been amalgamated in such a fine way as it was in the unforgettable saga of Kong and his beloved Ann.


Video Game Music

Materia Collective has released Neal Acree’s latest game score, REND, on CD, giving the textural symphonic-and-voice score a fine high-def sonic resolution (see review of the digital release in my August 2019 column). The CD edition offers the full 23-track score on one disc housed in a deluxe 4-panel heavy-duty digipak; album booklet includes credits, liner notes, photos, lyrics, and more. The music is also available in a 2-LP vinyl edition is also available – both cd and vinyl; editions can be had from

Composers Helge Borgarts and Thomas Stanger (both part of BowsToHymns, a group of composers, sound designers and producers), in partnership with Deck13 Interactive and Focus Home Interactive, have announced the release of THE SURGE 2 original game soundtrack. The album features the heavy synth sci-fi score from the dystopian Action-RPG, released last year to wide critical acclaim on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. Now available on digital and streaming platforms including Spotify, the 31-track collection encompasses the full in-game score, including a main theme by Markus Schmidt and original tracks by recording artists Stumfol and Talla 2XLC. The album also includes bonus tracks composed by BowsToHymns from the Kraken DLC which released on January 16. Preview three exclusive tracks here.


Randall D. Larson was for many years senior editor for Soundtrack Magazine, publisher of CinemaScore: The Film Music Journal, and a film music columnist for Cinefantastique magazine. A specialist on horror film music, he is the author of Musique Fantastique: A Survey of Film Music in the Fantastic Cinema and Music from the House of Hammer. He currently writes articles on film music and sf/horror cinema, and has written liner notes for nearly 300 soundtrack CDs.
Special thanks to Benjamin Michael Joffe for copyediting assistance.

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